Peter Crouch made the most of only his third start of the season by claiming a clinical hat-trick to ease Tottenham into the last 16 of the Carling Cup at Deepdale last night.
The England striker made the most of his recall to the side when he dispatched Gareth Bale's deep cross with a fine volley and Jermain Defoe continued his hot streak to put Preston effectively to bed with a header seven minutes before half-time. With 13 minutes left, Crouch tapped home Aaron Lennon's low cross to make the game safe for Spurs, who were given several scares by Alan Irvine's high-flying Championship outfit.
Preston lacked nothing in spirit, and pulled a goal back through substitute Chris Brown. However, Spurs substitute Robbie Keane added a fourth for last year's beaten finalists with three minutes remaining and Crouch cheekily completed his hat-trick in injury time, backheeling in to seal a first treble in Tottenham colours.
Harry Redknapp was delighted with his strike force and welcomed the competition for places. "It was a good hat-trick from Crouchie and good to see Robbie and Jermain get one each as well," Redknapp said. "[Roman] Pavlyuchenko was injured, otherwise he might have scored and made it even harder. It's a nice problem to have."
Preston North End Lonergan, Hart (Chaplow, 51), Mawene, Chilvers, Nolan, Jones, Shumulikoski, Carter, Wallace, Parkin (Brown, 78), Elliott (Mellor, 78). Substitutes not used: Henderson, Smyth, McLaughlin, Proctor.
Tottenham Hotspur Gomes; Hutton, Huddlestone, Dawson (Corluka, 80), Bale; Bentley, Jenas, Palacios, Giovani (Lennon, 16); Crouch, Defoe (Keane, 70). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Naughton, Rose, Dervite.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).